The Review Column: Robert Kennedy
One of the more remarkable things about the assassination of Robert Kennedy was the emotional identification with the dead man on this side of the Atlantic.
This was more than a matter of sorrow at the Kennedys’ tragic history; it was more than awe at the family’s glamour. Robert Kennedy was mourned as one who stood for the poor and underprivileged, for racial integration and a more humane society. He was venerated as a rich man who cared deeply for the common people.
Was this true or false?
Kennedy was first and foremost a politician—one who drove ruthlessly for the top. It is no new thing, for a man on the march to power to speak up for the underdog; the British Labour government, to give only one example, is full of such people.
This is the true perspective on the famous Kennedy crusade. The simple fact is that they have always played for votes; when Martin Luther King was arrested at a crucial moment in the 1960 election, the late President Kennedy did not judge the matter on grounds of Negro interests but on how many coloured votes he could swing by taking King’s side, and whether they would be enough to make it worth while.
Similarly, Robert Kennedy provoked much hatred— perhaps also that of his alleged assassin—by championing Israeli interests in the Middle East. This was a direct bid for the Jewish vote, both in the Californian primary election and in the vital state of New York which Kennedy represented in the Senate.
The dead man’s record in office is no more sympathetic. In September 1961 he warned that America was prepared to use nuclear weapons. When the Berlin wall went up he favoured a military confrontation with the Russians. As he himself admitted, he was once a hawk over Vietnam.
On these, and many other, issues Robert Kennedy was not on the side of the common man; he was standing strongly for the interests of American capitalism, even if the lives of millions were at stake.
The assassination was a horrible and frightening affair but so is the capitalist system Kennedy stood for. His was just a single life; capitalism has killed millions.
Germs at Porton Down
The recent protests at the Ministry of Defence germ and gas warfare laboratory at Porton Down have had one rather surprising result. As if to show us that there is nothing harmful going on there, the plant will hold a number of open days, when we shall all be able to see as much of what the scientists are up to as the government thinks fit
Perhaps we shall be encouraged to make a day of it— take the family for an outing on a cheap excursion from one of the nationalised transport undertakings, picnic under the shadows of menacingly blank windows, take home a souvenir test tube of anthrax or botulism.
Very few people will be taken in by the open days. When they are shown the vaccines against disease which Porton Down produces, they will probably reflect that such results are inevitable. The laboratory was set up for one primary purpose—research into methods of waging war by administering gas and disease.